What happened that day can’t be changed; can’t be unseen. But Morgan survived, and now she needs to find a way to move on – and forgive the unforgivable.
But Morgan can’t forgive, and she can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and her little brother. She feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface.
Just when it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air, and what it feels like to be alive. He might be exactly what Morgan needs to help her face the future.
Morgan is a teenager suffering from agoraphobia, a phobia she has only contracted within the last half a year when she experienced a school shooting at her high school. Since that day, she has been unable to leave the house for fear that someone else, out there in the big, wide world, will do the exact same thing. She can’t handle loud noises, or being unable to see what is inside another person’s bag without wondering if there will be another shoot-out.
Underwater is a novel that focuses on themes within society that are prevalent as of now. With American gun crime at an all time high, and mass school shootings increasing each year – Underwater really brings it closer to home by focusing on the after-effects, reminding the audience that the shooter isn’t the only one who has the problems, but that it directly effects everyone else involved.
I really loved the character of Morgan; she’s very relatable and three-dimensional and presents a clear reflection of reality in her emotions, feelings, and actions. She is the epitome of milennials; she is unable to accept compliments due to being body-conscious and understanding that she is different to all the other girls, and she easily crushes on the guy next door. Later in the novel, there is a texting session between the two which I found relatable – remembering all those times as a teenager when you would text your feelings to the guy you liked scared of how he would take it. It clearly shows the sides of introverts and those suffering anxiety and I found that I identified with her. I knew what it felt like to feel anxious about leaving the house to meet people, anxious to make new friends, anxious to expose all my feelings and emotions to someone you had only just met. That’s what makes Morgan more than just a character in a novel – she is human! But not only does Morgan, as a character, highlight the condition of agoraphobia, all of her symptoms and actions because of this phobia are indicative of other issues that are current right now; anxiety, depressions, mental health – and I applaud Reichardt for highlighting all of these issues and in a way, normalising these issues so that it felt like I, as a reader, wasn’t truly alone.
Reichardt uses the pacing of the narrative to mimic Morgan’s progress throughout the novel. At first it is slow and leisurely before picking up in speed as Morgan pushes past the boundaries she has set in place and experiences new thing. It also mimics the love interest between Morgan and Evan: they start of slow, and it is only within the last 100 pages or so that the relationship truly begins to develop and progress. I was pleased that there was no rushing into this relationship and that Reichardt took the time for Evan and Morgan to get to know each other; for Morgan’s true self to shine out and expose to Evan that she has issues and that, if they’re to be friends – or more, that they come with the package.
I rushed through this book in a matter of sittings and found myself wanting to pick it back up whenever I put it down again. Reichardt does a brilliant job and bringing these themes to the fore and highlighting the importance of understanding the effects of shootings, mental health, and phobias. It was well paced out and Morgan’s ability to overcome her fears doesn’t feel rushed. I would definitely recommend this to anyone suffering with anxiety, mental health, depression etc, or even for those that just want a fresh and relatable perspective.